The other day I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram (ugh, I hate even typing those words of admission, but alas it’s true!) and I saw some version of this quote:
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”
I found myself stopping abruptly mid-scroll, staring at these words. Why? I mean, it’s not the first time I’ve seen them after all. For some reason though, this time around they hit me right in the heart, and even more surprisingly, they actually made me mad.
Who says our dreams have to be BIG, anyway? I retorted defensively in my head.
I understand, of course, the positive intention behind these words. They’re about courage. About believing we’re capable of more than we might first think.
But (as most of you know who have been on this list for a while) increasingly I’m becoming more suspicious of this word MORE.
Why must we always be told to want more? Why must we always be told to want bigger?
Everywhere I look, I see these messages repeated: Dream bigger. Aim higher. Achieve greatness. Put your big, bold vision out into the universe and you can make it happen.
But do we ever stop to ask ourselves if a big dream is what we really want?
In the first few years of Made Vibrant, I was fortunate enough to have a few moments and experiences that felt like I was on the road to achieving my “big dreams.” Being asked to give a TEDx talk, or being featured in the Wall Street Journal, or flying out to Brit + Co to film a course... honestly, at the time these all felt like inflection points. Like Made Vibrant was “leveling up.” Like all my dreaming big was adding up to something.
But you know what? When I look back over the past three years and I think about the moments when I felt the most content, completely happy, like I had to stop and pinch myself because I was living the dream, it wasn't in those "BIG break" moments. It was actually the opposite. It was always in the moments where I had scaled back my ambition enough that I could LIVE more. Those periods when I felt I was finally able to breathe. The real dreamy moments of gratitude when I thought to myself “wow, I did it” — those were the times when I was able to take walks outside without feeling guilty for spending time away from my to-do list, or an hour in my studio, or that I could easily make time for weekend girls’ trips and weekly family phone calls.
Inside those small moments are where my REAL dream lives.
The dream of being able to support myself financially with my work, but while also being able to carve out the time to live. After all, what is ambition and achievement worth — however big it is — if you’re miserable while you’re getting there?
The beginning of Made Vibrant was all about focusing on growth. I wouldn't go back and change that because there’s no doubting that accumulating an audience of people that trust you and like what you offer takes some of the financial pressure off.
BUT what I'm hoping to communicate in this letter is that if I could go back to the beginning and offer up any wisdom from my current self to my former self who was just starting out, I would change my aim. No longer would I be chasing after this "dream big" mentality. Instead I would ask myself to dream deeper. To dream truer. And yes, to even dream smaller.
Because in a way, my seemingly small and simple dream — to live well, make art, help others, not stress about money, and answer ultimately to myself — that actually IS a pretty big dream when I consider it. It’s certainly not something that was a real probability at most other times in history. With that context, I can see just how beautifully audacious my small dream truly is.
So now let me ask you... what do you REALLY want for your life or your creative business?
Do you actually want to be traveling all the time, hiring the ten person team, winning over the listless crowd? If you do, that is totally cool. Follow that pull.
BUT, if for some reason that is not your dream, and instead your dream is to fly off to the mountains for the week with your family, or to take the afternoon off for a surprise road trip with your spouse, or to spend a day ignoring your to-do list to finger paint with your kids… I want you to know that I believe that’s a dream worth dreaming too.
Truthfully I've been asking myself this a lot lately as I finish up the proposal for my first book. My curiosity has led me down the traditional publishing route, but with every step I have to check back in with myself and make sure I can clearly answer this question: WHY am I doing this?
Is it because it’s part of the big dream I’m supposed to want, or the real dream I actually want?
Just asking that question brings me back to my purpose — to get the Made Vibrant philosophy out of my head and heart and into a tangible, shareable, lasting piece of art — rather than the other achievement-based traps that accompany the book publishing process.
Anyway, I hope the thoughts this week will encourage you to look at your goals and your dreams through the lens of your core self, and for some of you, I hope it takes a tiny bit of the pressure off.
What do you want for yourself apart from what the world wants for you? Now go get it. 😉
I’m off in the mountains this week with family, gearing up for my next project being released next Tuesday! Can’t wait to share it with you guys!
Have a fantastic week!